Voices of IBD (19) - Jessica's Story

Welcome to PART 19 of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease series, where we talk to people from all walks of life with this condition; to give everyone a platform to share their story, and help to raise awareness.

This week we talk to Jessica about her battle with Ulcerative Colitis.

What is your name and age?

Jessica Hyland, 35 years old.

What is your occupation?

Currently unemployed because of my UC. I have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and used to be a police officer several years ago. If I ever reach remission, I look forward to working full time again.

What form of IBD have you got?

Ulcerative colitis. More specifically ulcerative proctitis (confined to my rectum only).

How old were you when you were diagnosed?

33, but I ignored my symptoms for well over a decade. I probably had active UC as early as 20 years of age.

About the disease...
What were your main symptoms that led to your diagnosis?

Bleeding. Lots of bleeding.

How did you feel when you got diagnosed?

I was very confused. I had an awful doctor who didn’t even explain the disease to me. I had no idea UC was a lifelong disease. I had to do a lot of research and reading of my own. 

What support did you get during and after your diagnosis?

Most of my family and friends didn’t (and really still don’t) understand Ulcerative Colitis. They try to be supportive, but it’s still very confusing for them.

Do you take medication, if so, what?

I’ve tried several medications. Started with Lialda and Mesalamine enemas. After a while they stopped working. I moved on to Mesalamine suppositories and Prednisone. I still didn’t reach remission and started Remicade. That made me much worse. I then switched to Entyvio. That worked for a few months. I’m on to Humira now. It’s been a long and frustrating 2 years since diagnosis. Fingers crossed Humira does the job.

What are your experiences with hospitals? Have you had many stays in hospital or colonoscopies? Do you have an IBD nurse?

I’ve been fortunate that although I’ve had a lot of bleeding, I’ve never needed to be checked into a hospital.

What seems to affect your IBD the most? What triggers it?

I’m still not quite sure what my triggers are, as my body never seems to react immediately to things.
I’ve been on a new diet called “The Plant Paradox” that has been working well. It has improved my symptoms. Basically, no grains, dairy, legumes, or beans.

Do you currently, or have in the past, struggled with mental health? If so, what?

When I was younger I struggled with being overweight and would say I probably had some depression. Overall though my mental health has been pretty good. I thank CrossFit for that. I’m able to exercise daily and I’m in very good physical shape, despite my disease.

Was this because of your IBD, or influenced by your IBD or vice versa?

At times I would definitely say IBD has affected my mental health, but only temporarily. I would have a good cry, dust myself off and keep fighting. I keep a positive attitude.

Do you get support for your mental health?

If I needed support I’m sure there would be ways for me to receive help.

Do you feel like you get the right support?

Yes. I’m very self-reliant though so I probably don’t need it as much as some.

How do you cope?
What is your go-to routine for when you are flaring?

Strict diet, lots of water and exercise. Try to keep my stress levels low.

What do you do to give yourself a break or relax?

Just basic things. Relaxing, watching movies, and taking long hot showers.

What lifestyle/diet/changes have you made to cope with your IBD?

My diet change has made the most difference so far. Again, I really think exercising regularly has really kept me from the hospital. I do realize that not everyone can exercise. In that regard, I feel very fortunate that I have Ulcerative Proctitis only. 

What advice would you give to someone who may think they are experiencing early signs?

Go to the doctor. Get as many tests run as possible. Don’t ignore it. If you feel the doctor missed something or isn’t listening to you, get another opinion.

What advice would you give to the friends and family of those with IBD?

Be patient and understanding. 
This disease causes so many complications like fatigue, skin and eye problems, even lupus. Be there to listen when they feel like giving up. Encourage them to make good choices to improve their quality of life. Do some reading of your own to try and understand their disease.

If there is one thing that keeps you motivated and focused through it all, what would that be?

I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s just one thing. I think just loving life and wanting to do whatever it takes to enjoy it keeps me focused.

What is your favourite quote?

That’s tough. I don’t think I have one that applies to my health or motivates me. Maybe one from John Wayne? Something like 

“Life is tough and even harder when you’re stupid.” 

Basically, to me, that means make smart choices. Listen to your body. 

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your story here on BecxBlogs. If you are affected by Crohn's or Colitis; please go to the Crohn's & Colitis UK website for further support and information.

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